Our current 3rd grade unit is about our home in the solar system. “Space, the final frontier.” We’ll be investigating the geometry of the earth, moon and sun. We started out with questions that students already had in mind, and the ‘facts’ that they already knew. Given the many questions about the solar system, we decided to memorize the correct spellings and order of the planets, so we could talk intelligently about our larger home in the cosmos. Here’s an animated website that let’s one zoom around our solar system. http://janus.astro.umd.edu/SolarSystems/
You can select the view from the top left. Sun is the whole solar system. Planets let you view just that planet and its moon(s). Zoom in or out using the settings at the bottom right corner.
To display what the solar system looks like at any point in time, say, your birthday, go here. http://www.fourmilab.ch/solar/ Put in your date and hit the update button.
Students must grapple with the huge amounts of time it took to form the solar system and the distances between stars and planets. This website gives us one idea of how our Milky Way galaxy, which contains our solar system, was formed. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uhy1fucSRQI
Our sun is an average, yellow star. Big enough to contain a million earths, it is the source of energy for all life on our planet. The sun’s energy comes from nuclear fusion, where atoms of hydrogen are fused- smashed together to become atoms of helium. In this process, a little matter becomes a tremendous amount of energy.
There are several competing theories about how the moon was formed, but how it got to look like it does today is the topic of the video, NASA – Evolution of the Moon. http://www.youtube.com/watch?NR=1&v=UIKmSQqp8wY&feature=endscreen
To see the earth and moon from any location, use the earth and moon viewer. http://www.fourmilab.ch/earthview/ Six teams of astronauts have visited the moon and www.google.com/moon will show you where. Two very nice apps are available for iPods/iPhones/iPads – Moon Globe, and Mars Globe. Starwalk is another app, quite a bit more complicated, that let’s one tour the larger cosmos.
Now, what if mars, or one of the other planets, was where the moon is located. How big would it look to us here on earth? http://vimeo.com/19231255 will give you an idea. Jupiter is most impressive!